A New Industry

View item information

The camera: A practical magazine for photographers [cover], 1912. Courtesy of the University of Michigan via HathiTrust.

The modern camera developed over time through the invention and innovation of a number of experimenters. Joseph Niépce, though often called the grandfather of modern photography for his light-based camera obscura developments, was just one of many trailblazers in the field.

Throughout the 19th Century, other innovators made significant contributions, like Louis Daguerre (of the daguerreotype) and Thomas Wedgwood, who developed the concept of capturing images with light-sensitive chemicals. William Henry Fox Talbot developed processes for making those photographs permanent, using light-sensitive silver chloride and silver iodide. The brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière experimented with color photography process, and patented the color plate as part of their “Autochrome Lumiere” process. In conjunction with their work on photography, the Lumière brothers were also pioneers in cinematography.

By the mid-1860s, the photography field was rapidly commercializing, with chemically coated papers and special lenses available for public purchase. Stereograph cards (viewable through a pair of goggles, similar to the modern View-Master toy) became wildly popular. It was estimated that nearly every middle- and upper-class Victorian home had a stereoscope and a collection of cards, offering views from around the globe. A portrait of Queen Victoria of England, herself a photography enthusiast, was a popular stereograph image. Soon, appreciation for specific photographers and their work rose, as did the demand for more affordable copies of their images.